CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Willie Taggart spoke at length about Florida State’s quarterbacks on Wednesday, but anyone hoping for a clear-cut depth chart will have to wait a while.
Taggart said that James Blackman will be with the first-team offense when the Seminoles begin fall camp in a few weeks, but that Alex Hornibrook, the graduate transfer from Wisconsin, will take plenty of starter’s reps, too.
And if Hornibrook emerges as the best option, he’ll be under center when Florida State meets Boise State on August 31.
“(Blackman) has been starting (since) the spring, and he has the understanding that he will go in with the ‘ones,’” Taggart said. “But those guys are going to compete and get the reps and the best man is going to win the job,” Taggart added.
Blackman is the only quarterback on the roster to take an in-game snap in a Florida State uniform, and he’s entering his second season in Taggart’s hurry-up offense.
The redshirt sophomore has thrown for 2,740 yards and 24 touchdowns and, last year at North Carolina State, had one of FSU’s better passing performances of the season (421 yards, four touchdowns).
Beyond his on-field abilities, Blackman is popular both with his teammates and much of Florida State’s fan base. That’s due both to his magnetic personality and the way that he’s carried himself while moving up and down the depth chart throughout his first two seasons in Tallahassee.
“James Blackman is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met in my life,” FSU defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said in the spring. “…He’s a team leader.”
Hornibrook, though, has an impressive pedigree of his own.
His 26-6 record as a starter at Wisconsin is good for the best winning percentage in school history, and he also ranks among the Badgers’ all-time top five in touchdown passes, passing yardage and completion percentage.
“I think one thing he brings to our football team is experience,” Taggart said. “Not just experience playing football but experience playing in big bowl games, too. Games that he played in and won.
“You can’t overlook that, from an experience, standpoint at that position.”
Hornibrook has made a fine first impression with his teammates, too.
Receiver Tamorrion Terry said that Hornibrook “loves to work,” and that he’s always up to study film with his new cohorts on Florida State’s offense – whether in the team’s meeting rooms on campus or at his apartment.
“He’s a great player to be around,” Terry said. “He fits this team. We welcome him.”
Added Taggart: “It seems like he’s been there for years, just how he’s been relating to his teammates. It’s almost every day I see him with someone different, getting to know those guys.”
The two – Blackman and Hornibrook – will settle Florida State’s quarterback race on the practice fields, which, of course, is exactly the way Taggart wants it.
Throughout spring camp, before Hornibrook joined the Seminoles, Taggart said that creating “competitive depth” at quarterback was among his top priorities.
At the time, it seemed like a big job. Blackman was the only eligible scholarship quarterback on the roster, and it was tempting to think of him as the de facto No. 1.
But no matter how talented a starter might be, Taggart believes all players – and, by extension, the team – are best served by a healthy sense of competition.
Even better, Taggart also believes that Blackman agrees.
“James will be the first one to tell you that he embraces that,” he said. “He loves competition. He thrives off of it.”
Even if Blackman does end up on top, he’ll be a better quarterback after being pushed by Hornibrook.
Same goes for Hornibrook, who, unlike many grad transfer quarterbacks looking for a one-year, ready-made starting job, chose to attend a school with a formidable incumbent at his position.
No matter how things shake out, it likely means good things for the Seminoles’ offense.
“Those guys are going to compete,” Taggart said. “They’re going to get their reps, and the best man is going to win the job.”
No update on QB Travis’ status: Florida State is still hoping to have one more quarterback available this fall, but time is running out for Louisville transfer Jordan Travis to be ruled eligible by the start of camp.
Travis, a redshirt freshman and the younger brother of former FSU baseball star Devon Travis, joined the Seminoles in January and participated in spring practice. But unless the NCAA grants Travis’ request to waive its transfer rule, he won’t be able to play in a game for FSU until 2020. (Travis is allowed to practice with the team.)
The NCAA used to have a strict rule that required undergraduate transfers to sit out one year before playing for their new teams. But that rule has loosened considerably in recent years, with a number of high-profile players at high-profile schools receiving immediate eligibility based a variety of individual circumstances.
In some cases, the NCAA ruled in the players’ favor in a matter of weeks.
Florida State appealed on Travis’ behalf in April and believes his case is comparable to that of other transfers.
But the NCAA has yet to respond.
“The process is still going,” Taggart said. “You don’t know how it’s going to work out. It’s one of those deals, I mean, you see it around the country now. Some get waivers, some don’t. …
“Jordan is part of our football team, a heck of a football player and it would be great to have him. If we don’t get him (eligible), it’s going to be great to have him continue to develop and be ready to go next year.”